Question: My son has gotten into this pattern of tossing and turning in bed. This has been going on for five or six weeks already. He's so stressed by this that he hates going to bed pushing off bedtime every night. The truth is that I don't blame him. I can imagine how tortured he feels lying there in bed and not falling asleep. Do you have any advice for insomnia?

Answer: Getting a good night's sleep can be much easier for your child after he's been physically active during the day. Have him ride his bike, play basket ball, jog around the block when possible, at least a half an hour before bedtime. This will give his body the activity and oxygen it needs to help him relax and sleep more fitfully. A hot bath around two hours prior to bedtime can further help him relax and make him ready for sleep. (Taking a bath closer to bedtime may delay sleep.)

But once he's in bed, the worst thing for him to do when he can't fall asleep is to toss and turn. Advise him to use the time to read a book in bed, rather than lying frustrated. This way, even if he's not sleeping, his body will still get more rest than if he were up and about. True, his brain won't get to rest, but he'll gain more out of reading a book than by spending the time watching the clock and tossing and turning.

Suggest to him that he hide his clock—as watching the clock won't help him fall asleep, it will make him worried. But perhaps the biggest worry for most is the worry about the insomnia itself. Tell him that it's okay not to fall asleep. Tell him that he shouldn't try to go to sleep - falling asleep is something that requires the opposite of effort. Effort is work and work keeps you awake. The harder he will try to go to sleep, the harder it will be for him to fall asleep. Instead, teach him how to relax and let sleep come.

Teaching him systematic muscle-tension-and-relaxation exercises can help: Show him how to tense all his muscles, one at a time, then let go. He can also try falling asleep with the help of relaxation tapes simulating sounds of ocean waves, bird sounds, or other tapes with soothing music that can lull him to sleep.

Sniffing lavender oil has also been proven to help. Put several drops on a handkerchief or pincushion and have him take some long, deep breaths; the deep breathing and pleasant, relaxing aroma may help him drift off to Dreamland.

Many people have improved their quality of sleep by increasing their calcium intake. Increase foods rich in calcium in his diet: Cheese, salmon, almonds, tofu or ask your pediatrician about calcium and magnesium supplements.

There are times in a child's life that sleep comes harder for him. Sometimes it may be because of a difficult stage he's experiencing. Often the child may not even realize what's bothering him subconsciously, for instance, class friction, sibling rivalry or other stresses that he's not aware of. Don't wait for bedtime to communicate your love for your child, encourage him to talk, listen attentively and empathize with him.

See this phase as a wonderful opportunity to inculcate in your child the knowledge that G‑d runs this world, that He knows what is best for us and how to help us, and that G‑d is with us throughout our entire life and has already done countless acts of great kindness to us.

However, bedtime is a good time to reassure him once again, so that he can go to sleep with a smile on his lips.

(If the problem persists, you may want to check this out with your child's pediatrician to make sure there are no physical ailments causing his insomnia.)